- Climate variability and human impact on the environment in South America during the last 2000 years: synthesis and perspectives
- Climate of the Past Discussions
- Volume | Issue number
- 11 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
An improved understanding of present-day climate variability and change relies on high-quality data sets from the past two millennia. Global efforts to reconstruct regional climate modes are in the process of validating and integrating paleo-proxies. For South America, however, the full potential of vegetation records for evaluating and improving climate models has hitherto not been sufficiently acknowledged due to its unknown spatial and temporal coverage. This paper therefore serves as a guide to high-quality pollen records that capture environmental variability during the last two millennia. We identify the pollen records with the required temporal characteristics for PAGES-2 ka climate modelling and we discuss their sensitivity to the spatial signature of climate modes throughout the continent. Diverse patterns of vegetation response to climate change are observed, with more similar patterns of change in the lowlands and varying intensity and direction of responses in the highlands. Pollen records display local scale responses to climate modes, thus it is necessary to understand how vegetation-climate interactions might diverge under variable settings. Additionally, pollen is an excellent indicator of human impact through time. Evidence for human land use in pollen records is useful for archaeological hypothesis testing and important in distinguishing natural from anthropogenically driven vegetation change. We stress the need for the palynological community to be more familiar with climate variability patterns to correctly attribute the potential causes of observed vegetation dynamics. The LOTRED-SA-2 k initiative provides the ideal framework for the integration of the various paleoclimatic sub-disciplines and paleo-science, thereby jumpstarting and fostering multi-disciplinary research into environmental change on centennial and millennial time scales.
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